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“My Life’s a Miracle”

By Kathy Barr



Ask Ryan Campbell for one word to describe his life, and he will tell you that it’s a miracle! Ryan’s love of life is remarkable, given that nearly eleven years ago many doctors, physicians, and emergency medical personal felt that Ryan was not going to live. On September 23, 1995, 17-year-old Ryan was thrown from a van traveling 70 miles per hour on a freeway. As a result of severe trauma to his head, he lay in a coma for eight or nine weeks. His family was told he would probably never emerge from the coma, and, if he did, would be severely handicapped. This tragic accident drastically changed Ryan’s life. Prior to the accident, Ryan excelled in many areas. Academically, he was doing well and was an honor and advanced placement student. Musically, he was the top-ranked clarinetist in California for 16-year-olds and was on the California High School Honor Band. He also played the piano, saxophone and guitar, and wrote songs for these instruments. Athletically, Ryan was involved in basketball, roller blading, ice skating, and, he said, even enjoyed walking on his hands and standing on his head. He was ranked as the #2 hacky-sacker in his high school.Thankfully, 9 weeks after the accident, Ryan emerged from the coma, but, as predicted, was impaired in several ways. In addition to being unable to talk, his word recall, memory, and all other areas of cognition were affected. For 23 months, he received intensive speech, occupational and physical therapies from a leading neurological rehab program at a hospital in Southern California. Two years and 23 months after the accident, in spite of doctors’ predictions that he would never emerge from a coma, and, that, if he did, he would always be in rehab, or severely disabled, Ryan entered Abilene Christian University as a freshman majoring in missions. “I’ve always wanted to be a missionary,” Ryan said. “First it was Africa, and then I ‘discovered’ Asia, specifically China, and it won my heart.” Ryan hoped and prayed that he would be able to accomplish his goal of sharing the gospel in Asia. His first semester at ACU, his major challenges were problems with walking and slow speech. Another challenge was being able to write quickly enough to take notes. To assist him, other students wrote down what Ryan would need to study. Teachers gave him extra time to take exams. Ryan received his undergraduate degree in 5 years.As time went on, although Ryan still had to deal with some difficulties as a result of the accident, his life became like that of any other college student – driving around town and going to the gym. His social life was also a source of enjoyment for him. Smiling, Ryan said, that “because of his ravishing good looks” he dated many young ladies, and spent time with friends at the coffee shop. “I’m blessed; I can do what I want, when I want…It’s a miracle, and I don’t use that word lightly,” Ryan said. Besides the academic lessons he’s learned, Ryan also gleaned valuable lessons about life as a result of the accident.“I learned the value of brokenness,” he said. “Being a conspicuously broken person has given me an inroad into the hurting and suffering of others. I was very depressed at first; for many years I thought of suicide, I was angry with God, and, like Job I questioned Him.”Ultimately, though, Ryan remembered the goodness of God and His provision for Ryan, in spite of what happened. “Because of God’s good graces, He delivered his servant,” he said.As Ryan looks back, he can remember the hurt and suffering he has endured, but above all else, he remembers immense joy and happiness.“I wouldn’t wish this experience on my worst enemy, but, in some strange and bizarre way, I would endure it again. People may ask me, “why?” I would reply, “That is where I met Jesus. Face-to-face. That is when I experienced his saving grace upon my physical body. That is when he rescued me, giving me a second chance at life. Now I know our Father has a wonderful plan for his servant. Plans to prosper him and give him a hope and a future more wonderful than anything he could have imagined. God is faithful. Just as Paul asked his Father to remove his thorn in the flesh 3 times, I prayed 33,000 times to have my thorn removed.”However, God told Ryan, as he did the apostle Paul, that His grace is sufficient, that His power is perfected in weakness. “When people are feeling broken, discouraged, hopeless, or just troubled, the Father uses me to relate to the hurt and suffering of the world, and point other people to Him,” Ryan shared.Ryan plans to finish his Master’s degree in Missions, and is thinking of entering ACU’s Marriage and Family Therapy program. However, his dream is to go to China soon after he graduates. Ryan has already been there three times, and is anxious to return. His ultimate goal is to do God’s will, and if, for some reason, he cannot go to China immediately after graduation, Ryan is willing to wait until God makes it clear that He wants Ryan overseas.“I will do whatever God wants,” he said. Why China?“Asians, especially the Chinese, love to hear about a man that can bring so much joy to this life, that he can totally change it, and he holds the keys to eternal life. This man named Jesus,” Ryan said. The Chinese relate to the challenge that life has become for Ryan because of the accident. While studying the Bible with someone in Wuhan, where he worked as a professor of the English language at the Wuhan University of Technology, Ryan was asked about his feelings about life. He told about how God had delivered him. He told about God, how He loved the world so much that he sent His son into the world, to save the world. “They could relate,” he said. “Much of life outside of the United States is harder than it is here.”Before beginning his graduate degree in missions, Ryan was involved with China Now, a group where college graduates use their degrees as a means to gain an invitation to China to teach the Chinese the English language. In other words, they are tent makers, or vocational missionaries. Also, Ryan is on the China Vision Committee, which networks with other people with similar interests in reaching the 2+ billion Chinese. This summer, Ryan is going canoe camping in Canada, and then will be traveling to Thailand enroute to Cambodia for the 2006 Asian Missions Forum.As he finished telling his story, Ryan again shared how his faith in Christ helped him to, not only survive, but to thrive. “Every person goes through trials. Our focus can’t be on ourselves, it must be on Jesus,” Ryan said. “Trials are a part of life; our response to those trials determines the path we will take.”For more information, e-mail Ryan at or call him at 325-518-2340.

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